MUMBAI: The use of all forms of public transport is set to drop to 50% by the weekend, transport sources said on Thursday going by falling ridership on account of Covid-19. On the third day of the 50% office staffing rule, ridership on BEST was down 40%, and on both Central and Western Railway down 30-40%. On Metro, the drop was 45%. On Wednesday, the drops for BEST and local trains were in the 20-27% range.
Ironically, despite losing commuters, BEST buses completed more rides and ran punctually because several roads were free of congestion as a significant population of motorists and bikers stayed home. But peakhour traffic was a different matter, especially on arterial routes.
At the railway stations, commuter presence was almost skeletal during nonpeak hours and the crowds significantly thinner during rush hours. “Against a daily ridership of 37 lakh, we have estimated the commuter count at 26 lakh on Thursday,” said a WR official. His CR counterpart said the exact commuter count for Thursday would be available only on Friday, but as per an assessment, ridership on CR’s main and harbor lines was down by up to 40%.
“The platform was almost empty when I boarded a local at 6.30pm,” said Goregaon resident Mayur Sevak. Another commuter, Prasad V, who takes a train from Kurla, said, “Around 10.30am, I saw almost empty trains even in the up direction (towards CSMT).”
As for the Metro rail, an official said the operator estimates Thursday’s ridership at 2.4 lakh, against the weekday average of 4.4 lakh.
Meanwhile, peak-hour traffic on arterial roads seemed to have increased on Thursday evening as compared to the previous couple of days. Roads where congestion was witnessed included Western Express Highway’s Malad-Goregaon stretch, SV Road in Andheri, the road outside Dadar station (western side), SVP Road, Babulnath Road, NS Patkar Marg, and Worli Naka. “It took me an hour to reach Juhu from south Mumbai. Traffic increased after I crossed south Mumbai,” said Alaviya Shaikh, a motorist.
The reasons for congestion are not clear yet, but a traffic police officer said, “Some people perhaps decided to head out after being behind closed doors for a couple of days, adding to traffic on account of motorists heading home after work. They could also have set out on short trips to make purchases or for professional tasks.” Another official said it could also be a reflection of office-goers shifting from mass transit systems like trains and buses on to the road with their own cars.
At the same time, Covid-19 has hit taxis and cabs. The app-cab business has witnessed a 25-30% drop in passengers, according to rough estimates by driver partners. Raju Patil, who heads the union Sangharsh Tourist Chalak Malak Sangh, which represents a section of Ola and Uber drivers, said a segment of drivers affiliated to his union will not ply cabs from Friday till March 31. The leader of another union said its members will be on the road. The aggregator firms did not comment.
As for kaali-peeli taxis and autos, business was low for a consecutive day, with over 75% of the vehicles struggling to get passengers, especially on share routes.